Google Nexus 5 review

Google Nexus 5 review

A few weeks ago, Google's new and long-awaited Nexus phone was presented. As with the Nexus 4, Google has once again engaged LG to manufacture the device.

The Korean manufacturer has equipped the camera with, among other things, a 4.95 inch IPS display with Full HD resolution, a Snapdragon 800 processor and an 8.0 megapixel camera. And because it's a Nexus phone, it was the first phone to feature Android 4.4 KitKat, the latest version of the operating system. With this package, the Nexus 5 should be able to stand out from its predecessor and take on flagships such as the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and the G2 also made by LG.

Soon it started to dawn on us during our test period that we didn't get the update to Android 4.4.2. A closer inspection of the software information showed that our Nexus 5 was running on a developer version of Android and apparently would not be updated over-the-air automatically. Unfortunately, several hours of working on a possible solution could not change this, so we had to resign ourselves to this fait accompli.

What's with the device?

The white box in which the Nexus 5 is delivered is wrapped with a blue tube. The box contains a microUSB cable with an adaptor plug for the socket, a quick start guide and a pin to eject the slide for the SIM card. As with the Nexus 4, we do not get a headset from Google. All in all, simplicity is the trump card here too.


In terms of appearance, the Nexus 5 has changed considerably compared to its predecessor. Although the shape has remained largely the same, the appearance is clearly different. With the Nexus 4 we were dealing with 2 glass plates that were held together by a black and chrome colored plastic border. The Nexus 5 consists of one piece of black plastic with a rubber soft touch coating in which a glass plate with monitor is placed on the front.


Above the screen there is a small round hole with a grille for the earpiece. In addition, the front facing camera can still be seen, but otherwise the front is completely smooth and its top and bottom are almost indistinguishable when the screen is turned off. When the screen jumps on, it immediately becomes visible that there is only a small strip of equipment next to the screen.


Despite the fact that the aircraft has a so-called unibody, there are a few things to note on the few loose parts. The power button on the right hand side is somewhat loose in the unit so it can even be rattled. Under the power button is the drawer for the SIM card and it just doesn't connect nicely to the device. A grumbler who pays attention to this but still we are not the only ones who noticed this. LG has given the appearance of the Nexus 5 a small update to fix these 'problems'.

The volume buttons are located on the left side of the device and on top of the headset jack. The bottom side is for the microUSB connection which is flanked by two grilles for the speaker and microphone.


The back is slightly convex and is only interrupted by the lens of the camera. Unfortunately it sticks out a bit. Even though it is protected by a thin rim, this seems to pose a risk of scratching.

The appearance may be subdued, perhaps even downright boring, but the device is very comfortable to handle and offers good grip. Moreover, the dimensions and weight are not too excessive. Apart from our two remarks, the plane feels solid.


The first few days of our test period we were rather disappointed by the performance of the Nexus 5's battery. With the screen brightness on the automatic mode, the device was empty a few times within 12 hours. We like to blame the developer version of Android running on our Nexus for this but we can't be absolutely sure.


After we had manually set the screen brightness to about 15%, it was quite easy to hold out for over 24 hours on one battery charge. You'll have to make do with that because there are no options included in Android by default to improve endurance.

Call quality

With the arrival of Android 4.4, the phone function of the Nexus has been revamped. At the top of the screen there is now a search bar with which contacts but also companies can be searched using Google. Below that is the last called contact and then we see the contacts from the group with favorites.


Among them again are the recently called contacts. The complete contact list has a less prominent place and can only be reached via the options menu. The contact list can be searched with the help of smart dial by conjuring up the numeric keypad using the key at the bottom of the screen.


All in all, the ringing experience has improved considerably as a result. It is a lot clearer and more user friendly. The sound quality of the Nexus 5 is not breathtaking, but the sound is clear and can be loud enough.


This NEXUS may carry the number 5, which does not mean that the monitor also measures 5 inches diagonally. Although it doesn't make much difference. The screen has a diagonal size of 4.95 inches and a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels. As far as we are concerned, this is a nice size screen and with a pixel density of 445 ppi it also shows a very nice image. Details and colors look very neat and the viewing angle is more than adequate.


As mentioned before, it seems that the automatic setting of the screen brightness has a rather negative influence on endurance. We therefore experienced that the screen was often far too bright when this option was turned on. It is to be hoped that this is due to the developer version of Android that ran on our test device.


With every update of Android, people are eagerly looking forward to innovations in the interface. Not because they are absolutely necessary, but more because it's just fun when your phone gets a new look and new features for free. The update to 4.4 included a number of changes to the start screen and application menu of Android. Strangely enough, there are differences in appearance between the versions of Android 4.4 that run on Nexus 5 and 4.


At the start screens it is no longer the middle one but the left one that is most important. On the left side of this start screen there is also a fixed place for Google Now. This application can now be opened not only by dragging up from the home key, but also by dragging the start screen. All with the aim of making Google Now more and more part of your daily life.


In the application menu, the icons have become a lot larger. This means that a maximum of 4x4 will still fit in the grid. Furthermore, there are no more separate tabs for the widgets. These can simply be placed again by keeping an empty spot 'pressed' on a start screen. This makes the menu look a lot calmer and clearer.

The in 4.4 improved way Android deals with available memory seems to pay off on the Nexus 5. Of course, the device also has powerful hardware, but at least that ensures that the software and apps work very smoothly and smoothly. Especially scrolling through long lists goes like clockwork.


The previously mentioned change of telephone function also affects the phonebook. The person app now really only revolves around your saved or synchronized contacts and is no longer directly integrated in the phone application. The contacts can be found on three different tabs.


The left one is for your favorites and most called contacts. In the middle are all the contacts and the right tab is for groups. Contacts from email accounts or social media can also be synchronized and it is configurable which contacts should be shown. However, due to a persistent conflict between Google and Facebook, it is not possible on a Nexus to synchronize contacts from Facebook without the help of an external app.


Android no longer has a separate app for SMS messages. Instead it is combined with Hangouts from Google+. The app has recently had an update to fix some annoying bugs and is now working properly. It does take some getting used to the operation now and then. By tapping the name of the contact in a conversation, you can choose between SMS or a Hangout. Unfortunately, SMS messages and Hangouts from the same person are displayed separately in the list of conversations.


Although the Nexus 5 is a real Google phone, fortunately it also has an application for other mail accounts in addition to the Gmail app. To synchronise, all you have to do is enter your e-mail address and password. In terms of appearance and functionality, the two apps barely elude each other. The operation is also similar, which makes it pleasant to use both apps side by side.


The standard Android keyboard is quite complete in terms of functionality, but in terms of ease of use it still leaves a few stitches as far as we are concerned. However, there is no arguing about taste and nowadays it is a piece of cake to install another keyboard that is better tailored to your personal preferences. Although the Android keyboard allows you to enter words by dragging and dropping from letter to letter, we don't find the system's word choice and spelling correction sufficient.


Big progress compared to the Nexus 4 is the fact that the Nexus 5 can handle mobile internet via 4G. That's nice now that the major providers in the Netherlands are also busy rolling out their networks for this increased speed. The device also has support for WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. Via NFC, data or content can be exchanged with another device using Android Beam. And with 'tapping and paying', it is even theoretically possible to pay using your phone.


For surfing the internet the Nexus 5 of course has Google's own browser Chrome. This browser works stably, is clear and has plenty of functionality in house. Moreover, Google is still working hard to improve it so that it shares more and more functionality with the browser on your PC. The browser synchronises Chrome's bookmarks and tabs on your PC unnoticed. It does, however, not support Flash. The browser works smoothly and pages load smoothly.



The NEXUS 5 is equipped with an 8.0 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. The interface is very minimalistic and the operation takes some getting used to. Below the shutter button is a selection button for the different camera modes and above that is the settings button. Navigation through the settings is via several staggered arches. However, it can also happen that you change the wrong setting.

Because we didn't have a regular Android version on our test device, we had to do without the update to Android 4.4.1 or 4.4.2 and couldn't take advantage of the software improvements to the camera.

We would have liked to have tested the camera with the update because in previous reports it had already been reported that the improvements are much needed and clearly noticeable. In any case, the shortcomings soon became clear to us. Focusing and printing a photo is annoyingly slow. Moving subjects are therefore very difficult to capture at the right time and without distortions. In daylight or when you have the time to take a picture of a stationary subject, the Nexus 5 delivers excellent photos. Especially when using the HDR+ mode.


The Nexus has two apps available for viewing images. These are gallery and photos. In both applications, photo post-processing capabilities are available. It is generally assumed that gallery will soon disappear and photos will take on this role completely. This to increase the use of and integration with Google+.

Google Nexus 5 camera samples

Existing programs

Nexus 5 includes the following apps by default: Calendar, Calculator, Camera, Chrome, Downloads, Drive, Email, Earth, Gmail, Google, Google+, Hangouts, Keep, Clock, Maps, News and Weather, People, Play books, Play games, Play magazines, Play music, Play Store, Quickoffice, YouTube.


The attentive reader will immediately notice that this list is rather concise. This emphasizes once again the idea that a buyer of a NEXUS can go all the way when setting up and adjusting his device. However, this does not mean that a NEXUS cannot be put into use immediately after start-up. On the contrary, everything is done while leaving out pronounced gimmick-apps. Until recently, Quickoffice was still an independent app, but Google adopted it and integrated it directly into Android.


The appearance of our black Nexus 5 can be labelled as incredibly boring or very sophisticated and understated. In any case, the combination of materials and dimensions makes for a device that feels very pleasant to use. With its beautiful screen and manageable size, the Nexus 5 is a great device for reading, browsing the internet or watching videos. The 'bare' version of standard Android has been developed to such an extent that the software and interface are also a pleasure to use and see. What's more, the hardware of the Nexus 5 runs like sunshine.

Unfortunately we could not test the camera in its full, updated glory and that was also noticeable in the performance. Because it became clear from several messages that the update is a clear improvement, we didn't mention the camera among the drawbacks of the Nexus 5. As a result, only the intermittent automatic adjustment of the screen brightness remains as a drawback. We can't be sure that this is due to the developer version of Android that ran on our device, but we hope it does.

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